Taurus has been in the business of producing economical firearms designed for duty use and personal defense. With every passing year, there seem to be new additions to their catalog. But one that never seems to go away is the Taurus Model 85 and its variants. According to Taurus, the M85 is their most popular line. And having finally taken the dive in my first foray into Taurus firearms, it is easy for me to see why.
The M85 is a small frame double action revolver designed for personal defense. While it has been around for decades, the line varies today with frame materials from scandium, titanium, polymer, and aluminum to different hammer configuration and calibers. But the basic no frills M85 as seen today is an all steel revolver that comes in at 21 ounces fully loaded. It features a 2 inch barrel with typical low profile sights and an exposed hammer that can be manually cocked for single action fire. The hammer also features a key lock system that can be used to disable the gun if it is to be left unattended. The gun comes in either a blued or brush stainless finish and has a capacity of five rounds of 38 Special ammunition. It is a bit beefier than its competitors like the J frame Smith & Wesson and Ruger LCR, and is rated for +P ammunition. It also comes with Taurus’s trade mark rubber grip. These are budget friendly carry guns and run around $300.
Shooting and Impressions
The M85 is a very well built firearm with new, if any, tool marks. The action parts are well finished, which is important for good lockup and maximum reliability out of a revolver. The knurled areas, like on the hammer and cylinder release, are well done and not overly sharp. Satisfied with the quality, I packed out to the range with three hundred rounds of ammo and got to work.
Like every modern revolver, the M85 has a simple manual of arms. Loading and unloading was easy. Just open the cylinder, throw in five rounds, close the cylinder and fire. While you can cock the hammer for a nice, crisp trigger release, I fired the M85 in double action mode. A long pull of the trigger is all it takes and is realistically the way it is going to be fired in a hurry. It breaks at about eleven pounds and stacks a bit at the end. But on the whole, the action was smooth and it got even smoother while shooting. The double action pull, though, might be an obstacle to a new shooter or one with weak hand strength.
Small 38 Special revolvers tend to recoil somewhat violently, especially with +P loads, but thanks to the M85’s all steel weight and rubber grip, I was able to get through the range session without ill effects. The ammunition used are as follows:
Winchester 130 grain Full Metal Jacket
Remington 158 grain Lead Round Nosed
Remington Ultimate Defense 125 grain +P Hollow Point
Recoil with the latter, as well as flash, was more severe, but more than tolerable. The former types of ammunition are standard pressure loads and they recoiled more lightly. The gun fit well in the hand with no pinkeys hanging loose off the grip and that certainly helped in the recoil management department too. The sights are fixed and low. Though you can’t adjust them, they were right on with the 158 grain load, which seems to still be the factory standard for sighting in 38 Special revolvers. The shooting was done at both 7 yards and 25 yards with five rounds easily coming into two inches at seven. Shooting proved a bit more difficult at 25 yards in double action mode, but all five rounds were landed in an 8 inch pattern at that distance.
Speed reloading drills are not the M85’s forte. Using basic HKS speedloaders that drop five shells into the chambers with the twist of a knob is usually easy, though not as fast as some other reloading options. Not with the M85. The grip, while generous, gets in the way of the speedloader and often times I have to shake the loader to get the rounds to drop free. The grip also sometimes gets in the way of proper ejection. The ejector rod, when pressed briskly, would usually throw the cases out, but the grip tends to catch one of the empty shells when trying to reload. Would you likely have to reload the gun in a serious situation? Probably not. But its a pet peeve of mine and its addressed as such.
In the Model 85, Taurus has a winner. Though it lacks the high polish and name recognition of Smith & Wesson, the gun is not inferiorly finished or fitted. The gun ran like a champ after three hundred rounds in one sitting. No lockups and no sore hand. Given the fact that few will fire their snubbie revolver often, that’s quite a few rounds. The grip is a bit of a double edged sword and allowed me to be quite accurate with the gun, though it did get in the way of speed reloading. Overall, the M85 is a bit heavy for a small revolver. It won’t be quite as easy to carry as its Ultra-Lite cousins, but it is much more comfortable to shoot and at the end of the day, hitting your target is more important than capacity or caliber. At $300, the M85 is priced right and does everything its more expensive competitors can do. So if a small revolver fits you best, I would recommend the Model 85.
The Taurus Model 85 is capable of surprising accuracy. Target 7 yards. Ammo: Remington 158 grain LRN. Fired in double action.